So, that Sonic movie huh?
It's probably safe to say at this point that people are a little down on the Sonic The Hedgehog movie. Sure, Jim Carrey looks like he's having fun with the various mustaches that have been given to him, but everything else looks like a disaster on the level of the Super Mario Bros. movie.
Most of the vitriol is due to Sonic's unfortunate cinematic redesign. Instead of simply designing something that at least looks somewhat like the Sonic that fans know and obsessively love, they went in a different direction and created a monster that looks like they glued blue fur to an unwilling child. Thankfully, the negative reaction from fans has been so strong that the director of the film has come out and declared that Sonic will be redesigned before the film is released, meaning that just for once, the fans have been heard.
Or, is that just what they want you to think? What if Sonic's godawful design has been a brilliant marketing ploy all along?
You see, Sonic redesigns are nothing new. In fact, Sonic has had multiple iterations already.
From the original chubby, stout, adorable little guy who started the franchise...
... to the thin, sleek, cool Sonic of the 2000s who apparently managed to run off all that baby fat...
... to the scarf wearing, taped up, fourth wall breaking Sonic of Sonic Boom.
Yet, even throughout all his redesigns, Sonic still looks fundamentally like Sonic. The finger-wagging, the red sneakers, the white gloves, the giant eye that somehow has two pupils, it's all there. The basic design, while having been altered somewhat, has been the same for over 20 years. So, when a movie was originally announced, people naturally assumed that the studio behind it would know better than to drastically change what people already adored.
And then this happened.
Even without seeing the face, fans knew that they did not like this Sonic. The muscled legs, the human hands, the weirdly pointed nose, it all seemed wrong. Even the game's creators didn't seem to understand what Paramount Studios was doing here.
Emphasizing how weird and ripped Sonic's legs were probably wasn't the best way to counter the negative fan reaction. In fact, in the early stages of the Sonic The Hedgehog hype/nightmare there was a lot of weird attention paid to Sonic's legs.
However, it's important to note that these promotional images got people talking. And sure, the things that were being said tended to be some variation of: "OH GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" But now Sonic's design was a conversation starter, and as the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.
Still, you could have said that fans were overreacting. They were basing the quality of the design on a few images that didn't even show off his face. Surely once they saw the whole thing in action, it would all make sense.
This trailer showed off the full design of Sonic, and needless to say, people were furious. Almost as soon as the trailer went live fans were sharing their livid reactions to this monster that Paramount dared to call Sonic.
Soon, fans began sharing their own redesigns of Sonic, showing that most fans with no real position in the film industry could do a better job of designing Sonic than a studio with a several million dollar budget.
Social media exploded with hashtags like #fixsonic and #notmysonic trending. The fan outrage had reached a fever pitch, and the film's trailer was hit with over 500,00o dislikes.
Just when it seemed like things were as bad as they could possibly be for Sonic fans, a reprieve from their suffering finally arrived.
Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear... you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be... #sonicmovie #gottafixfast 🔧✌️— Jeff Fowler (@fowltown) May 2, 2019
The fans had been heard. The director of the film, Jeff Fowler, had personally promised to fix the terrible Sonic design. For once, a major studio had stood down and listened to criticism. Now, moviegoers will get the Sonic they deserved, no matter what it might cost.
But what if this was never meant to be the final Sonic design in the first place? What if all this backlash, this hatred, this outcry from Sonic fans was all a mere ploy to get more people invested in the Sonic The Hedgehog movie? What if they've already had the actual Sonic design completed months ago, and all of the poor reactions were just part of the plan?
Think about how expensive a movie like this must be to make. The current budget for this film is about $90 million, meaning it's already costing a lot to produce. Adding in a total redesign of its main character in time for a November release could end up inflating the budget even more. So, why would a studio do that? Why spend more money than they need to, just because the fans are upset?
This Sonic design, and the ire that it has drawn, may be perhaps the most brilliant marketing strategy ever concocted. Think about it. What has Sonic's reputation been for the past 2 decades? The quality of his games have been outright terrible with only the occasional exception. Plus, video game movies have tended to be pretty terrible in general. It's likely that fans were already going to be wary of this movie no matter what.
Yet, despite Sonic's lackluster track record, his fans are insanely loyal. So, why not get them angry enough to start social media campaigns, thus drawing media attention, and just when it looks like all hope is lost, have the film's director announce that the fans have won, and a new Sonic is coming fast?
Now that the fans are invested, they'll want to see the movie because they helped make a change. They fought the big Hollywood studio, and emerged victorious. They saved Sonic, and now they need to support him in the theatres.
We may have just been suckered into the greatest advertising campaign of all time, and once the box office results come in, we'll know for sure if it truly worked.